[Field Report] Puppy Dog Route

or, the Puppy Dog Route… take 1

The plan was to hit the road early Saturday morning, head up to Troy Vt (about three and a half hours on the highway), camp in sub-freezing weather to test how well our gear could handle it, and then spend the next two days riding the PDR from north to south, with one more camp stop along the way. It was supposed to be our last  real ride before winter really sets in and it gets too cold for camping without seriously heavy-duty winter gear, or too cold for riding without the same. One day on the slab for two days on the dirt. We ended up with two days on the slab for one on the dirt with minor hypothermia, one off, a hurt wrist, serious dehydration headaches and more. In short, it was a good test run. It just wasn’t nearly as enjoyable of one as we’d hoped.

Day one:
Slab, chills, more slab, more chills. After an unsurprisingly late start Dachary got her first taste of cold weather riding, and camping. We started out with the rain liners in the coats (Dachary had them in the pants too) and by the end of the day I’d added my fleece and she her coat’s thermal liner. She started shivering violently maybe ten minutes before we stopped for dinner.  A steak, and a semi-rushed time at Applebee’s (is there any vegetable they can’t fuck up?) warmed her up, but apparently not enough, because she had trouble keeping her temperature up between then and the next morning.

We were racing the sunset to get to camp, something that seems to happen entirely too often, but it was the most incredible sunset either of us have seen. We were riding around beautiful vermont hills covered with red and gold leaves with dramatic fire edged clouds against a crisp blue sky. The video doesn’t even remotely do it justice, and I’m sorry to report that it wasn’t until Sunday that I started experimenting with taking pictures while riding, but we made it just a few minutes after sunset.

Dachary snugged her sleeping bag liner around her, pulled her hat as low as it would go, zipped up her sleeping bag, and put her coat over her head. I don’t think either of us realized she was actually cold to the point of mild hypothermia and it tok her half the night to warm up. She actually overheated at one point, went out to pee, and never fulled warmed up again.



Day One Action Items:

  • Update employee handbook to recognize the signs of hypothermia and take quicker action.
  • Policy change. Below thirty degrees employees shall henceforth be allowed to expense a motel room.
  • Standard issue office supplies shall henceforth include coffee (instant or in tea-bags) and tea. Hot Cocoa is no longer an officially endorsed substitute.
  • All riding footage must include music or have the wind noise muted

Day Two:
Sunday morning neither of us wanted to get out of our sacks, but moving around as we broke camp warmed us up. It seemed to take us forever to actually complete the task though and we got off to another late start, which was somewhat compensated for by the excellent breakfast at the Junction 101 Restaurant.

Kay stops for a picture
Kay stops for a picture

Sadly, less than an hour into the surprisingly tame dirt Dachary had her off. Her E-ZPass lept from her windshield into the space between her forks and headlight, which freaked her out (understandably), and made her stop as quickly as possible, which would have been fine except that it was on a corner on a hill, where she proceeded to loose her footing, fall over and whack her wrist. Of course her camera wasn’t running and I was around the corner, and because she was down in the middle of a blind corner, we didn’t stop to take a picture. I tried to film her taking pills after we’d picked it up and pulled out of danger (mostly), only to find afterwards that because it’s attached to the bike I’d taken the camera off the helmet to help with her bike. So I filmed lots of nothing.

Being the trooper that she is, she refused to take a break and just kept riding through the pain, which she concealed the true extent of. Unfortunately, the day wasn’t through with us. The microphone on my headset (Sena SMH10) died and left Dachary carrying on a one way conversation with me for the rest of the day. The really annoying thing about this is that her mic died about a month ago too. I’m hoping it was a bad batch because we aren’t going to have many more opportunities to test them on significant rides before the big trip.

A dirt road in northern Vermont
A dirt road in northern Vermont
Practicing taking pictures while riding
Practicing taking pictures while riding

The ride itself was beautiful and I experimented with taking picks with my point and shoot while riding. But it was frustrating because of problems with the GPS route. It was created on a different set of US maps, and my GPS wanted to recalculate it, which i wouldn’t allow because it would recalculate without any of the dirt roads. That left me with “as the crow flies” lines between waypoints, which would have worked if there were actually enough waypoints. But there were frequently parts with multiple turns between waypoints. If Dachary hadn’t printed out the turn by turn version we’d have needed to pull over and spend an hour reworking the map on the computer before reloading to the GPS, but between her reading that and me the waypoints we managed to get to the end. Mostly. We missed a few sections of it along the way, but managed to keep routing ourselves back onto it, except for the last missed turn when we were sick of fighting the GPS to find our way, sick of not being able to talk to each other, and generally wanting to say fuck-it and get to the campground. So we did.

The approaching clouds
The approaching clouds

When we got there we were “greeted” by some woman who was personally offended by my not having taken off my helmet, and Foggy so that she could see my face, even though Dachary was the one dealing with her to get a campground. “Are you going to show me your face?!” she said all annoyed. No, actually…”I’d have to put it right back on.” It’s somewhat of a pain anyway since the Arai, which fits my head so well, is smaller at the bottom (as it should be) and is thus fairly tight when it goes on or off.

Dachary’s energy level just crashed when we pulled into the site. I think she’d been running on nothing but willpower. It later turned out she’d drunk less than a liter of water the whole day because the Foggy made it hard for her to fit the camelbak tube up under the helmet. You’re supposed to drink 3-5 depending on circumstances. We set up the tent, I laid out the mats and bags, and ordered her in while I took care of dinner and cleaning up. Which is when I noticed a text from my ex., who was watching the dogs.

“You need to come get them now.” Apparently Ben had been having a hard time of it there, peeing everywhere, and snapping at people. When we got him back there were scratches on his nose too, so he’d probably been having issues with the other dogs as well. Which means we can’t leave him with her on the trip and are going to have to find another solution.

That night was serious headaches and nausea for Dachary. At least it was warmer. A few degrees above thirty is a much more dealable temperature.

“I’d heard movement in the brush, twigs snapping, etc. close to our tent, like the time we heard the bear on our Trans-Mass Trail trip. It kept going through my head that the woman at the office said it was bear season, and very dangerous, and that’s all I could think about. Laying there in the dark, listening to those noises, my heart was pounding and I was torn between lying quietly in the tent and hoping whatever-it-was wouldn’t notice us, or hopping on the bike and driving around the lake to the more populated RV section. Then I heard the probably-moose-sound from near the head of the lake, and immediately nixed the idea of riding the bikes around, as we’d have to pass the moose. So I laid there quietly for well over an hour, until the noises finally got too far away to hear and my exhausted body dropped back into sleep.” – Dachary

I slept through the whole thing and was very envious when I found out what I’d missed.

Day Two Action Items:

  • Employees must drink 3-5 liters of water per day. No exceptions.
  • All GPS maps must be tested ON the GPS before depending on them. Confirm that there is a waypoint at every intersection if it’s a route the GPS won’t normally route you via.
  • Those silly looking yellow egg holders are now officially endorsed office supplies (we did everything but drop a bike on them).
  • Spare microphones must be included in the standard issue office supplies. An inability to communicate is bad for employee morale.
  • Hard panniers will henceforth be recommended for protecting stuff in offs.
  • Soft panniers will henceforth be recommended because they don’t need banging into shape after offs.
  • Update employee handbook to recommend one person removing the tent fly while the other throws everything out of the tent. It has been found to be an good time-saver.

Day Three: Day three was just a long ride home on the highway so that we could pick up the beasts early. But, we packed up camp and we ready to go an an hour and a half, which seems like forever but is actually pretty good for us. We don’t rush, but we don’t like taking as long as we do. Day Three Action Items:

  • Update employee handbook to suggest that one person should never remove the fly by themselves when there’s lots of condensation. It gets all over the tent itself and drips inside.
  • Update employee handbook to note that Vermont restaurants do breakfast far better than Massachusetts ones. Reasons unknown.
Fall colors against darkening skies
Fall colors against darkening skies

About Kay

An old-school geek, addicted to travel, with a love of programming, writing, Esperanto, and starting businesses. -- @masukomi on Twitter.

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